Will the People of the North Permit Coercion?
New York Herald, February 5, 1861
It was clearly evolved from the discussion between Senators Seward and Mason, on Thursday last, that the future premier under Mr. Lincoln, has calculated civil war as among the probabilities of the future, and as an inevitable consequence of persistence on the part of the South in its resistance of Northern aggression. The arguments of the tyrant—force, compulsion and power, as a last resort—were employed by him without stint, and he declared his readiness to "stand or perish," with arms in his hands, if upon that condition alone the Union may be preserved. "Everybody," he said, "who shall resist, oppose or stand in the way of the preservation of this Union, will appear as moths upon a summer's eve," when the whirlwind arises which shall sweep them away. Vaunting that the issues between North and South were founded upon a mere abstraction, in behalf of "twenty-four African slaves, one slave for each forty-four thousand square miles of territory;" acknowledging that "slavery has ceased to be a practical question," he could yet declare that "battle was the measure to be resorted to last, for the salvation of the confederacy." Mr. Mason, in reply, deprecated "measuring swords" to settle such a controversy. "I trust," he exclaimed, "that we may avoid the ultima ratio of the Senator from New York. I trust the good sense, the wisdom, the civilization, the humanity of the age, will rescue the country from the effect of any such counsels. I trust that in the free States there is a body of good sense, an enlightened basis of patriotism, sufficiently free from the shackles of party obligations, to see the folly of such advice. What! war to restore this Union or preserve it? And that men of sense shall be deluded into war under the pretence of only enforcing the laws of the nation? I appeal to the free States to repudiate the counsels of the Senator from New York, and disown them; and if, in the Providence of God, it is to result that we are to separate in two confederacies, then let the counsels of peace prevail, and not the counsels of the Senator from New York. Let the counsels of peace prevail, as the only counsels which can avert that greatest of all calamities—war between brother and brother—a war between races, which could conquer peace only through oceans of blood and countless millions of treasure."
Nine out of ten of the people of the Northern States are prepared to re-echo the patriotic sentiments of Mr. Mason. The citizens of the free States are not prepared for civil war, nor will they consent to imbrue their hands in the blood of their brethren at the South. The views promulgated by Mr. Seward have excited the deepest feeling of distrust and alarm, and it is the common utterance of men's mouths, that any attempt on the part of the incoming administration to carry out his coercion theory, will meet with no less resistance in the non-slaveholding than in the slaveholding States. It is true that the bitter end so long foreseen is approaching, and that the period has arrived for the country to pay for the treat of elevating anti-slavery republicanism to power; yet the catastrophe has not come upon us so suddenly, or without such premonitory signs, that citizens of the States north of Mason and Dixon's line, can be hurried into a course so suicidal, atrocious and wicked as a portion of our republican leaders would mark out for them. We have drifted to a point where the problem has ceased to be, whether the Union can be saved; and, in answer to the still more important question, shall the South be permitted to go out peaceably? every conservative, right minded man at the North has already given, in his heart, an affirmative response. "Irrepressible conflict" has succeeded in developing the outlines of a fearful shadow over the land; but sober minded, patriotic citizens will never permit it to acquire a bloody substance. In the annals of history, there would be no parallel of a nation, from a similar height of prosperity; surrounded by every external and rejoicing in every internal essential of happiness; having plunged its future destiny, its wealth, fair fame, and the hopes resting upon it, into such an abyss of ruin, desolation and irrecoverable hopelessness of misery, as would be the consequence, if successful, of Mr. Seward's appeal to "battle." Far better that the Union should be dismembered forever, than that fraternal hands should be turned against one another to deluge the land in blood.
The masses of our population, in all of the States, are unquestionably peace loving and conservative. Five-sixths of those who are entitled to vote, in the North, deplore the agitation which is kept alive by the demagogueism [sic] of their representatives. They see the gigantic footsteps with which anarchy has been lately progressing; but they have found it impossible, as yet, to make their voices heard. They have witnessed the culpable inactivity of Congress, and have seen discretion, judgment and patriotism sacrificed before ambition and venality, without having it in their power to remedy the evil. But if in addition to what is past, they see civil discord about to be inaugurated, they will arise as one man and cry out—No! They loathe the thought of internecine strife upon a paltry issue, created by despotism and fanaticism, and they have already issued the fiat that, if the States of the Union must separate they shall do so in amity, and they will hold Mr. Seward and the administration of which he is to form a part responsible, if he exerts his influence to force them into it.